Neurosurgeons scream for more

From Huffington Post, Feb. 1:

Mind-Reading Advance Lets Brain Scientists ‘Eavesdrop’ On Thoughts
Scientists already know how to see into your mind’s eye, and now they can hear the voices in your head. In a new paper published in PLoS [Public Library of Science] Biology, researchers present evidence showing that they can track the brain activity of a person listening to spoken words and use it to reconstruct the words.

Has Big Brother arrived? Not quite. The University of California, Berkeley scientists behind the study didn’t actually read minds. They only “eavesdropped” on words that subjects were actually hearing. But it may not be so hard to apply the research to words we imagine. “There is some evidence that hearing the sound and imagining the sound activate similar areas of the brain,” said study co-author Brian N. Pasley, a post-doctoral researcher at the university.

In any case, the scientists focused less on potentially nefarious uses of the technology and more on how the technology could be used to develop treatments for medical conditions that make normal speech impossible. The paper found that “it may be possible to readout intended speech directly from brain activity” and that the research is “huge for patients who have damage to their speech mechanisms because of a stroke or Lou Gehrig’s disease and can’t speak,” said study co-author Robert Knight, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the university.

According to a statement released by the university, the researchers “enlisted the help of people undergoing brain surgery to determine the location of intractable seizures so that the area can be removed in a second surgery. Neurosurgeons typically cut a hole in the skull and safely place electrodes on the brain surface or cortex – in this case, up to 256 electrodes covering the temporal lobe—to record activity over a period of a week to pinpoint the seizures. For this study, 15 neurosurgical patients volunteered to participate.”

Right, always in the name of bettering humanity and curing disease, so anyone who dissents can be dismissed as a misanthropic reactionary. We say pull out those electrodes and cut off the funds to these mad scientists. This is the first step towards mind-reading robots monitoring us 24/7, and spells the death knell of human freedom. No, we aren’t joking.

See our last post on the coming rule of the robots.

  1. I respectfully disagree.
    I’m not pleased with the tenor of this sort of research either, but I think it may lead to serious discoveries which, I believe, outweigh the risks.
    For the first time in history, it may soon be possible to listen in on the demonic voices schizophrenics hear.
    Aside from the possibility of alleviating this terrible condition, the advances in out knowledge of consciousness and identity might be revolutionary.

    I must also, point out that the secret police agencies probably have their own research programs and even labs which they believe will eventually enable to engage in the sorts of abuses you are worried about.
    Remember the book, Acid Dreams, which detailed the C.I.A.’s program of drug research?
    That was 50 – 60 years ago.
    How far might such efforts have come since then?

  2. Neurosurgeons scream for more redux redux
    OK, this is terrifying. These mad scientists get a total wet kiss from Bloomberg March 6 about how “Deep-Brain Stimulation” can be used to treat anorexia—without the slightest intimiation that there could be a downside to this technology. Which is essentially giving technicians the power to control human emotions.

    God help us all.

  3. Facebook develops mind-reading technology

    We wish we were joking. From Recode, April 19:

    Facebook is developing a way to read your mind. Seriously.
    "What if you could type directly from your brain?"

    That was the question Facebook executive Regina Dugan, who runs the company’s secretive research and hardware lab Building 8, posed to the audience Wednesday at the company’s annual F8 developer conference in San Jose.

    The question was not meant to be rhetorical. Dugan and Facebook are actually making technology intended to do just that.

    Facebook is building what it calls a "brain-computer speech-to-text interface," technology that's supposed to translate your thoughts directly from your brain to a computer screen without any need for speech or fingertips.

    The idea is that this technology will be able to take what you’re thinking to yourself in silence, using non-invasive sensors that can read exactly what you intend to say, and turn it into readable text.

    More at Gizmodo

  4. ‘Malicious brain-hacking’ feared

    From The Independent, April 26: 

    New computers could delete thoughts without your knowledge, experts warn
    New human rights laws are required to protect sensitive information in a person’s mind from 'unauthorised collection, storage, use or even deletion'

    "Thou canst not touch the freedom of my mind," wrote the playwright John Milton in 1634.

    But, nearly 400 years later, technological advances in machines that can read our thoughts mean the privacy of our brain is under threat.

    Now two biomedical ethicists are calling for the creation of new human rights laws to ensure people are protected, including "the right to cognitive liberty" and "the right to mental integrity"….

    The ethicists, writing in a paper in the journal Life Sciences, Society and Policy, stressed the "unprecedented opportunities" that would result from the "ubiquitous distribution of cheaper, scalable and easy-to-use neuro-applications” that would make neurotechnology “intricately embedded in our everyday life".

    However, such devices are open to abuse on a frightening degree, as the academics made clear.

    They warned that "malicious brain-hacking" and "hazardous uses of medical neurotechnology" could require a redefinition of the idea of mental integrity.

    "We suggest that in response to emerging neurotechnology possibilities, the right to mental integrity should not exclusively guarantee protection from mental illness or traumatic injury but also from unauthorised intrusions into a person’s mental wellbeing performed through the use of neurotechnology, especially if such intrusions result in physical or mental harm to the neurotechnology user," the ethicists wrote.

    "The right to mental privacy is a neuro-specific privacy right which protects private or sensitive information in a person’s mind from unauthorised collection, storage, use, or even deletion in digital form or otherwise."

    I'm sorry, do we really have to pretend that there is some supposed social good to be derived form this technology that justifies the risks described above? And while we thank these ethicists for raising the alarm, posing the question in these terms makes them in a profound sense part of the problem.

  5. Mind-reading technology advances

    When you think a sentence in your head, your brain sends signals to your mouth and jaw. MIT Media Lab has developed a headset that reads those signals with 92% accuracy, CNet reports in a chipper account that makes no note fo the grim implication of this technology for human freedom.

    We're doomed.

  6. Mind-reading robots monitor Chinese workers

    China is "mining data directly from workers' brains on an industrial scale." Government-backed surveillance projects are deploying brain-reading technology to detect changes in emotional states in employees on the production line, the military and at the helm of high-speed trains. At Hangzhou Zhongheng Electric, workers wear caps to monitor their brainwaves, data that management uses to adjust the pace of production and design workflows. The technology is also in use at State Grid Zhejiang Electric Power, where it has boosted company profits by about 2 billion yuan ($315 million) since it was rolled out in 2014, according to an official overseeing the emotional surveillance program. (SCMP)

  7. Mind-reading technology advances

    From Science Alert, Oct. 2:

    Scientists Have Connected The Brains of 3 People, Enabling Them to Share Thoughts
    Neuroscientists have successfully hooked up a three-way brain connection to allow three people share their thoughts – and in this case, play a Tetris-style game. The team thinks this wild experiment could be scaled up to connect whole networks of people, and yes, it's as weird as it sounds.

    It works through a combination of electroencephalograms (EEGs), for recording the electrical impulses that indicate brain activity, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), where neurons are stimulated using magnetic fields.

    The researchers behind the new system have dubbed it BrainNet, and say it could eventually be used to connect many different minds together, even across the web.

  8. Mind-reading technology advances —again

    From PetaPixel, Aug. 23:

    In an article published in Nature, researchers at Radboud University in the Netherlands revealed the results from an experiment where they showed photos of faces to two volunteers inside a powerful brain-reading functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner…

    As the volunteers looked at the images of faces, the fMRI scanned the activity of neurons in the areas of their brain responsible for vision.

    The researchers then fed this information into a computer’s artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm which could build an accurate image based on the information from the fMRI scan.

    As the results of the experiment show, the fMRI/AI system was able to almost identically reconstruct the original images that the volunteers were shown.

    AI researcher and a cognitive neuroscientist, Thirza Dado, who led the study, believes that these highly impressive results demonstrate the potential for fMRI/AI systems to effectively read minds in future, according to the Mail Online

    Dado’s work is focused on using the technology to help restore vision in people who, through disease or accident, have become blind, reports the Mail Online.

    “We are already developing brain-implant cameras that will stimulate people’s brains so they can see again,” Dado says.

    Right, always in the name of bettering humanity and curing disease, so anyone who dissents can be dismissed as a misanthropic reactionary.